Is Rudy Gobert still friends with Utah Jazz teammates Clarkson, Conley?

Minneapolis • After finishing his Friday morning shoot on the bright, gleaming courts at the Mayo Clinic practice facility, Rudy Gobert headed into the waiting media scrum, saw visiting Salt Lake City reporters among the group, gave a big smile and asked, “What’s up, guys? »

Not a lot. You know, other than his nine-year old team, the Utah Jazz, coming to town to face his new four-month-old team, the Minnesota Timberwolves.

By the end of the day, he had suffered the ignominy of becoming the second likely playoff-bound Northwest Division foe to fall to the Jazz this season, as Utah emerged with a 132- 126 in overtime at Target Center – thanks in part for him missing two late free throw tries and tying.

But before that, he was thoughtful and introspective. Thoughtful and lively. Grateful for the past, but excited for the future.

He said he wasn’t shocked when Jazz CEO Danny Ainge and general manager Justin Zanik made the deal to trade it with the wolves. He also wasn’t stunned when they followed up with a full roster teardown.

“I wouldn’t say I was surprised. I knew the odds were the highest she had ever been in my years in Utah,” Gobert said. “I knew Danny had a lot on his mind and was trying to do what he thought was good for the future of the franchise and for the property. So I was ready. Regardless of what was going to happen, I was ready to have my best year and keep going.

Nor was he bitter that — despite being a three-time All-Star, three-time Defensive Player of the Year, four-time All-NBA selection and longtime franchise stalwart — he wasn’t. not seen as part of the future.

“I’m really happy. Really happy. I’m very grateful and can’t complain,” Gobert said. “And I’m really excited about this new adventure. Everything happens for a reason. So I’m really happy.

When asked if, in retrospect, he could point to an issue as to why the Jazz never achieved the playoff success they were built for, the Frenchman said there was no was no irrefutable proof.

Things don’t always go the way they should or the way you want them to.

“I don’t know if you can really call it a problem. We were really, really good, I just think sometimes you miss that window,” Gobert said. “It can’t go on forever. They had to make decisions. And if they were going to keep me or trade me, they had to make a choice. And they made a choice.

And there is no hard feelings on his part.

He had dinner with Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson and Rudy Gay (“These guys are really, really good friends”) Thursday night after they arrived in town. He said he has stayed in contact with various people within the organization since his exchange.

But he also acknowledged that while there would be emotions on Friday night when he takes on the Jazz for the first time, it may be less impactful than it might have been, given the drastic change that will take place. performed with his former team.

“A few guys are there. It says ‘Utah’ on the shirt, but…” he said, stopping. “Quin isn’t here. It’s a different structure. But it’s still going to be fun.

Gobert would finish with nine points, 23 rebounds and two blocks against his former team, while Jordan Clarkson had 29 points, six assists and five rebounds for the Jazz, while newcomer Lauri Markkanen added 24 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists.

He said he had fond memories of his time in Utah, although he declined to pick a favorite, fearing he would forget or rule out something important. He noted that the 9 years he spent there are “a big part of my life”, enjoying all the ups and downs, going from a lottery team to one of the best teams in the league.

He can’t wait to return to Vivint Arena for the first time when Wolves come to Salt Lake City on December 9.

“I thought about it a bit. It will definitely be a powerful moment for me,” Gobert said. “It’s gonna be fun, it’s gonna be fun. I expect a lot of love from Jazz fans. It’s going to be cool.

And when asked what he misses most about Salt Lake City this time around, he had a definite answer ready.

“My house! When you get used to something, you lose that bit of comfort,” he said. “It’s a process, but that’s what life is about. Those times when you step out of your comfort zone are when you learn the most. I was really grateful to Minnesota and the way they treated me. It’s been great for me.

When asked by a Wolves Beat reporter what the keys to Friday’s game would be, he returned to many of the same talking points that SLC reporters and Jazz fans have become so used to over the years: being rambling and physical, touch a little more guys. , play with more physics, compete from the jump.

As for matchups with specific players…

Well, when Clarkson spoke after Thursday’s practice at Zions Bank Basketball Campus, he said catching Gobert was “gonna be dope.” Then he shouted this float that beats the buzzer which the center hit on his debut for Wolves which made all the highlights, while continuing with some good-natured teasing: “He probably watched this 50 times in the dressing room! I’m surprised he hasn’t sent me the clip yet!”

And finally, Clarkson concluded with a light-hearted boast of challenging the star defender: “If he [guards me] on a switch, I’m going to try to break his ass!

Gobert, informed of this wish, smiled, raised an eyebrow, tilted his head to the side, stopped for a moment, then leaned over, unable to stifle his laughter, before shouting the offensive qualities of his ex-teammate.

“I mean, I hope so. I’ll do my best – I’ll do my best to slow him down. It’s going to be fun to keep it,” Gobert said. “Now that you’ve said that, I’ll make sure I find myself on a switch. He certainly has all the tools to give me a few buckets, but I’ll try to make sure they don’t come easy.

Unfortunately, the hoped-for moment never materialized. Maybe they’ll have to settle things in Salt Lake City.

Ada J. Kenney